Tamiflu discount for poorer countries

Roche is to provide its antiviral Tamiflu at a lower price to developing countries as part of a new initiative.

Under the Tamiflu Reserves Program, Roche will produce and ship the drug to developing countries upon order at a “significantly reduced price,” the company said.

A treatment of Tamiflu for a single ill person will cost between £2 and £6 ($2.80 and $8.50), depending on the dosage, Roche said in a statement. The price excludes local taxes or tariffs, it added.

Tamiflu sells for as much as $100 per five-day treatment course in countries such as the US, but since 2005 the company has offered a discounted price of $16 per treatment to poor nations.

Roche has also given approval for two companies, one in China and one in India, to produce Tamiflu generically.

Antivirals such as Tamiflu can shorten swine flu illness by about a day if given early. GlaxoSmithKline’s Relenza is also believed to be similarly effective.

David Reddy, who leads Roche’s pandemic preparedness task force, said only six of the world’s low income countries have stockpiled Tamiflu, compared to many wealthy countries that have large stockpiles.

Since populations in developing countries have more health problems like HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and pneumonia, experts believe the pandemic will have a more devastating impact there.

WHO has a stockpile of about five million Tamiflu treatment courses donated by Roche, and sent 2.4 million treatments to 72 poor countries in May.